OXNARD, Calif. — It was a bittersweet day for United Farm Workers Coordinator Juan Moran, who worked for 23 years as a vineyard irrigator in Soledad. On Wednesday, he remembered Cesar Chavez and provided fellow farmworkers with masks at a drive-thru in Oxnard to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day.
"When somebody asks me something regarding Cesar, it's hard for me to talk sometimes," Moran said.
It's emotional for Moran because he knew Chavez personally. He marched alongside the Latin American civil rights activist in the 1970s and, later on, would accompany him in Northern California and get to know him and Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association.
"He spent his life working for benefits for the farmworkers, and since I know him, I know he was a very good person, and that's why I joined the union for all these years," Moran said.
Flor Martinez, who is a farmworker and a DACA recipient, founded Celebration Nation, which hosted the event. UFW and other organizations provided farmworkers with food, fresh fruits and vegetables, diapers, and other essentials to help make ends meet in a time that's been especially hard on America's farmworkers.
"With the pandemic on top of already low wages, you just get a big dark hole that these farmworkers are going into, and it includes a lot of the migrant community. And a lot of our migrant community has probably done farm work at one point in their lives," Martinez said.
Oxnard holds many labor union memories, and on a day that marks how far things have come for farmworkers, Moran said there's still a long way to go for these essential workers.
"As you can see, if no farmworkers [were] working right now, especially this year under the pandemic, nobody in the big cities gets something to eat," Moran said.